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You Can't Have It Both Ways
March 11

Tuesday's episode of "Merv Griffin's Crosswords" featured good friend and fellow GSNNer Joe "The Game Show Man" Van Ginkel in the role of one of the crossword solvers, with a shot at thousands of dollars in cash money, not to mention his second 30 minutes on national television.

I would've totally forgotten to record it had I not remembered that the day prior that WRDC, the My Network TV affiliate out of Raleigh, moved it and "Temptation" from a cushy 10a hour to a less cushy 4a hour on sister station WLFL, a CW station (both stations, owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, rank #6 and #5 respectively), right in time for another spectacular show... the sunrise.

At least in my market, one of the top 30 in the nation that is apparently lauded for picking up "Crosswords" for a second season, it's a trade-off of the frying pan for the fire.

My cohort in crime Gordon also had a move of the show, where it airs on the NBC flagship. It started the season at 4p, where it regularly got clobbered by Oprah. When 2008 dawned, it was moved to 11:30p, where it regularly got clobbered by both "The View" and The Drew.

Not a proud moment for a show that Program Partners assured was on tap for another season.

Going back to my market for a moment, which echoes a concern that is shared by fans of "Crosswords" and die-hard followers of "Temptation" (all nine of you). It seems that we're trying to be sold the fantasy that "Crosswords" is holding steady, when the show has not yet broken the 1.0 mark.

As much as I like Crosswords and am willing to tolerate Temptation, the show is, to relate it back to Carolina backroads at four in the morning, a carcass on the ground. Sure it tends to move around a bit after a few SUVs plow throughout, but it's still a carcass. Nowhere can it best be proven than with the case of the latter. A Wikipedia entry cites that it has been given the go-ahead for a second season, but there has not been a piece of news from an industry source that has either confirmed or disproved this notion.

To put things in a personal prospective, the last time a show was put DEEP within the early morning was "Card Sharks" back in 2001. The last time a show was mysteriously replaced by another show in the same slot was "The New Price Is Right" in 1995. Both of them were gone by March. And the last show that was "promised" a new season only to be cancelled a short time later... 1998's "Match Game". Though the show presumably placed dead last for that season, it surprisingly kept its noontime slot in Raleigh, so at least I had something to watch while I was eating lunch my freshman year of college.

Perhaps it's the new thinking in Hollywood these days, as demonstrated in a column I came across the other day. The title was "Flat Is the New Up".

Taken from the article...

“Syndication is actually remarkably stable and should be getting more attention than it’s getting from advertisers,” said Garnett Losak, VP and director of programming at Petry Media. “While the also-rans continue to be also-rans in daytime lineups, the heavy hitters continue to provide some of the most consistent audiences in all of television. A network program that lasted as long as some of the syndication shows would be hailed as a classic.
-from TV Week:

Let's keep it real here. When a show is moved to a slot where it can do no one any harm, then it's not fashionable. It's not the new thinking. It's in dire trouble, and we're faced with conflicting arguments. On one hand, you have the Program Partners camp citing how unbelievably amazing the show is performing (so much as you can spin that 60% of the country has given it "a firm-go").

On the other hand, you have stations such as WNBC and WRDC shuttling the shows off to parts unknown (often without warning). Add to that that two more promising entries, "Deal or No Deal" from NBC Universal and "Trivial Pursuit: America Plays" from Debmar-Mercury, are certain to get people talking in ways that they did this time last year when "Crosswords" and "Temptation" were announced, and you can see that any argument you can make for renewing the show (yes, even the one that says they're dirt cheap to produce) is suspect.

You can't have it both ways. You can't be "a big hit" that gets moved somewhere it won't do you any favors to be a big hit.

The only conclusion we can come to until summer is that uncertainty is the only certainty when you're talking about two shows that right now just may be only a whisper away from cancellation.

Game Show Alphabet Redux

I'm still waiting for any suggestions that you all may have regarding the second Game Show Alphabet. If you want to get in on this, just drop me a line. It's a good time. It should be starting soon.

25 Days That Rocked the Game Show World: Day 13

We're halfway into our no-particular-order countdown. The next day spanned two days (four if you count the weekend), and until fairly recently, only aired ONCE on television despite the show it happened on rerunning from the time of its cancellation up until 1995. The basic gist: unemployed ice-cream truck driver stays in and watches tape after tape of "Press Your Luck", manages to secure an audition, and then go on the show. The rest is game show history. Completely legal... Completely legit... game show history.

June 8 and June 11, 1984 - Michael Larsen Takes Press Your Luck for $110,237

Anyone who follows Press Your Luck is aware of the story and what happened afterwards. The 18 squares were preprogrammed for several configurations of flashing lights. And whenever someone took a spin and STOPPED the board, they got whatever they landed on. Michael Larsen determined two things about the board. First, the patterns. Second, squares four and eight (counting from the top left clockwise) always contained money.

Fat load of good that did him on his first spin. He Whammied. It would be the first time he did so... and the last.

Larsen's run of the board lasted 47 spins and gave the man over $100,000 in cash money, two trips, and one sailboat, awarded only when head of CBS daytime Michael Brockman was threatened with a lawsuit. Brockman decided that he was not going to pay someone whom he viewed as a cheater. Larson counter-argued that what he did was no different than cracking the books for Jeopardy!.

Unfortunately, through a series of ill investments and bad karma, he lost most of it and died as penniless as the day he came to Hollywood in 1984 for the show. But the effects go way past changing someone's life. The suits at BS&P made certain that the incident would not happen again when they made the show install new and more patterns to further randomize the game as much as it should. A truly random board would not come until 18 years later with the computerized Whammy board on GSN's revived "Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck".

Game show fans got to see the onslaught in its entirety with the 2003 documentary "Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Scandal", after CBS and producer Bill Carruthers lifted a two-decade-long freeze on airing the episodes. Even more so, the two challengers on that episode, Ed Long and Janie Litras, came back on a special episode of "Whammy!" to take on Michael's brother James.

You can check out the Wikipedia entry here:

Chico Alexander stops at $750 and a spin. E-mail him at